NASA's Curiosity rover has reached the sand dunes of Mars

Contributed by
Apr 29, 2019, 6:21 AM EDT (Updated)

While we lowly humans toil and try to figure out a way to get boots on Mars within the next two decades, NASA’s Curiosity rover is up there right now, ripping around the Red Planet and sending back gorgeous photos and intel. Now the rover has reached the sand dunes of Mars.

The rover has sent back photos of Namib Dune, some of which show Mount Sharp on the horizon. NASA notes that the area comprises the dark-sand "Bagnold Dunes" field along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. These dunes move as much as 3 feet per year. The photos, embedded below, are component and composite images of the dunes, taken by the rover in late December.

Even cooler: Curiosity’s examination of dunes in the Bagnold field, along the rover's route up the lower slope of Mount Sharp, is the first close look at active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth.

For the sake of reference, the bottom of the dune nearest the rover is about 23 feet from the camera. This downwind face of the dune rises at an inclination of approximately 28 degrees to a height of about 16 feet above the base. As is sometimes common with Mars photos, the white balance has been adjusted so the rocks and sands appear as they would under Earth’s sky.